The Pentagon has acknowledged that its long-secret UFO investigation program ended in 2012, when US defense officials shifted attention and funding to other priorities.
The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was started in 2007, ceased to be funded in 2012, but is still operation today.
Officials with the program also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft, including one released in August of a white oval object, about the size of a commercial plane, chased by two United States navy fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
The newspaper reported most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by billionaire entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, a longtime Reid ally whose company is now working with NASA to produce expandable vehicles for human use in space.
Reid, the Times notes, "has long had an interest in space phenomena".
But I feel like the story could have had a completely different emphasis: Three senators - Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens - sent $22 million in taxpayers money to Reid's buddy Robert Bigelow could research UFOs. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence.More news: Bitcoin Continues Upward Climb Despite New Futures Deal
One of the reasons the Pentagon funded the program, according to a Congressional staffer who spoke with the outlet, was that officials believed the aircraft might actually be ultra high-tech products of China or Russian Federation that warranted further examination. "We do not know the answers but we have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions".
Just before leaving his Defense Department job two months ago, intelligence officer Luis Elizondo quietly arranged to secure the release of three of the most unusual videos in the Pentagon's secret vaults: raw footage from encounters between fighter jets and "anomalous aerial vehicles" - military jargon for UFOs.
Former Senator Reid in a recent interview said: "I'm not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going".
"This is about science and national security".
Instead, if aliens happen to land in America and open communications with the well-worn icebreaker "take me to your leader", they'll end up meeting someone who's barely recognizable as a human being. "I've done something that no one has done before". Elizondo later resigned from the department citing that the program was not being taken seriously enough.
"I left to find an environment where investigating these phenomena is priority number one", he said.